May 13, 2010

Monday Bar Review: Jolly Pumpkin

Jolly Pumpkin: Cafe & Brewery 
311 S. Main St.
Ann Arbor, M.I. 48104

Everything spins in Ann Arbor, from statues to cars, everything spins. I was disappointed when none of the features of Jolly Pumpkin nor the bar itself joined this tradition. The only interactive portion of the night was the drinking (and I didn't drink enough to make the bar spin).

 What irked me the most about Jolly Pumpkin, besides not incorporating the definite article into its name, was just how hard they tried to make the bar 'Post-Portland.' We get it, you make your own beer, none of the chairs match and everything is industrial. Even the sampler trays were only pieces of beer drenched 1"x4" with the paddle bit markings still visible. Put a little pride in your work.

Tortuga Ale Company Chocolate Stout: I don't like my beer to taste like fruit. I don't like my stout to taste like chocolate (Shouldn't have chosen this one to begin with).

Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere: Light, spice hoppie, malty and yeastie. Not specific enough to get me going. In 2006 "Men's Journal" named it one of the top twenty-five beers in America, just hope I didn't get the same batch (over-kill sorry, but it was a good joke that I couldn't let go). I agree more with IreJackolope's sentiments, "The taste is pleasant, but not amazing. I really wanted to be blown away by this one, seeing as how JP and I have had a pretty good history up to this point. There are some mild fruit notes, citrus mainly. The sulfury dry finish is there, but even that feels a bit lacking to me."

Grizzly Peak, Berserker American Strong Ale: A cask drawn ale always finishes smooth. You keep the flavor of the beer without the pesky carbonation.*  The only problem with this style of beer is that I don't know really what to expect from an American Strong Ale, is it a dopplebock? No, cause they called it an Ale...hmmm. It was the best beer I had at Jolly Pumpkin. I really enjoyed this one. 

Jolly Pumpkin Bam Nore: The Folks at JP say, "Dark, smooth and delicious, with aromas of sweet plum, and hints of coffee and cacao. Lingering tart and refreshing finish." Sounds great right? Not so much for a Saison. It's was only a little darker than the Bam Biere and just as yeastie.  Last, describing a beer like a Cabernet does not incise me. 

I forgot the other ones that I tasted that night. 

I know now that Jolly Pumpkin makes beer to have a sour taste. Oak barrels, yeah yeah, whatever. It must be my pallet because all of my co-drinkers didn't have as visceral of feelings as I did. I left thinking more Jolly Rancher than Jolly Pumpkin.  

Score 2.60 +0.1 for the staff putting up with seven beer samplers, -0.1 for not having any moving parts, +0.1 for tricking me into trying to spin parts, -0.5 for not incorporating the definite article in the name of the bar/beer. -.05 for bribing "Men's Journal" and "GQ" to get beer on 'best of' lists.' +.1 for that last statement not being true, and that whole definite article thing in the name of the beer (I still don't like it for the name of the bar). 

Final Score

*Take note Harper's, brewing a flat, yeastie, awful beer and saying that some people like their beer without as much carbonation is not the same thing as doing a cask pour. 


Anonymous said...

What kind of review is this. You complain a lot without really saying anything. It seems like you don't know much about beer. The berserker is described as an ale because it is. When you go to jolly pumpkin, you sometimes need to leave concepts like dopplebock at the door. Ron (jp head brewer) is a little more creative than that and has been known to push the boundaries of traditional styles.
It sounds, from this review, that you went into the bar with preconceived notions that you weren't going to like it. Mismatched bar stools won't make or break anyone elses experience. If you don't like your stouts to taste like chocolate, why would you order a chocolate stout? And who cares if YOU don't like your stouts to taste like chocolate. You haven't said anything about the beer, well, at least not of any form of suntance.
I hope no one reads your article and stays away from Jolly Pumpkin! They'd be doing themselves a disservice. Your review isn't a review at all, it's just a rant about your personal preferences and lack of adventure and knowledge.

Anonymous said...

wow, not the typical review for Jolly Pumpkin. NPR must be totally off their rocker too, since they just released their story about Jolly Pumpkin winning in a blind taste test, by Eric Asimov of the New York Times.

Matt said...

Well, first, thank you for reading Awkward Haiku. Second, Anonymous who posted at 11:15 AM, it is a rant as all of my reviews are, as most of Awkward Haiku is. I remember having to walk a half mile in the rain on the way back, getting chewed out for eating an appetizer and having to go up to the bar to order my beer after my waiter had already taken my order.

I will give JP's beer another shot, blind of course. I will not rescind my review about the bar. Not every bar gets a glowing review, however, every bar does not receive a horrible review either.

In the future, at least put down a name that I can respond to.

Matt said...

Oh and thanks for comparing me to NPR and Eric Asimov of the New York Times. It means a lot.

C Maguire said...

Wow, hostility towards a bar review. As Matt's close friend I suppose my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt. I hereby offer to be the official Awkward Haiku Beer Ombudsman. The next time I'm in Ann Arbor (which is pretty much never because I would rather pay for a plane ticket and go to a real East Coast town) I will write my own review. As you may note, my reviews are traditional assesments mixed with personal stories. I think part of the issue here stems from the fact that Matt and I share certain precomnceptions. To us, you take a traditional beer style and you do it really well. Still, I look forward to giving the Jolly Pumpkin another Awkward Haiku review.

Beerme said...

I came onto this review while searching for a review of Berserker. I had the beer at JP in Traverse City and found it to be a pretty good American Barleywine style beer. I would have to agree with Anonymous, Matt. Your beer reviewing skills are not up to this review. If you want to categorize an "American Strong Ale" why leap to a lager for comparison? Try this category of beer, first:
Also, Bam Noire should be compared to a farm house ale, not a saison, and even that comparison is flawed because this is a beer that defies categories (a fusion, so to speak). Forgetting the other ones you tasted that night shows the effort you took to prepare this review.
Of course it may be your pallet that isn't up to par with a real beer reviewer's palate...(sorry, with this error made in conjunction with mention of Jolly Pumpkin's Oak barrels, I just couldn't let it go)

Sour beers aren't for everyone, and frankly I'm not all that fond of most of them, but, given the reputation that JP's beers have in this style, they deserve a proper review by a knowledgeable reviewer. They didn't get that, here.

Matt said...

Dear Beerme,

I am a knowledgeable bar reviewer, I never said that I was a knowledgeable beer reviewer. This if I remember correctly is primarily a BAR review. If you had read any of my other reviews I mention this a few times (you would have to search for it).

My reviewing skills are fine. My comments are pithy and well adjusted for the medium that I find myself writing in.

I will defend this review until I can no longer type.

David said...

There's a wave of odd lack of a sense of humor here. Getting ugly. Let me make this clear now:
I disagreed with Matt's review. HOWEVER, it's also the best review JP's ever received.

Let's face it--Ann Arbrians are just embarrassed that not everything spins. Get over it. Or better yet, fix all AA buildings so that they do indeed spin